Abstract

This article examines the ideologies, practices, and aesthetics of the West Hollywood freaks, the Haight-Ashbury Diggers, and the Lower East Side Yippies between 1965 and 1969. These countercultural radicals conceptualized pleasure as a revolutionary heuristic: sex was central to critiques of middle-class culture and to effective strategies of resistance against the imperatives of the dominant order. The articulation of pleasure, performance, and protest by countercultural radicals has been unfairly obscured in the prevailing treatment of the counterculture by historians of mainstream liberalism, civil rights activism, and the New Left. Freak, Digger, and Yippie activists emphasized culture as the primary target of radical dissent and believed that robust, effective protest required the expression and experience of pleasure in public. To explore the ideologies, practices, and aesthetics of these activists, I look at the music, dance, fashion, and art they created by examining newspapers, magazines, albums, liner notes, broadsides, documentaries, and photographs, as well as later memoirs and interviews. While countercultural radicals were geographically fragmented and ideologically diverse, they collectively forged an effective, durable fusion of pleasure, performance, and protest between 1965 and 1969.

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